Difference Between Turbo and Supercharger

Those looking for big power gains usually turn to some sort of power adder, either a Turbo Charger or a Super Charger. There are some big differences between operation, benefits, and setbacks depending on which setup you choose. Both utilize what’s called forced induction to help increase the amount of air mass entering the engine, thus creating more horsepower. How each power adder increases the amount of air mass is where the differences begin and I hope to simplify the differences in this article.

Difference Between Looks

First, a turbo charger looks different than a typical roots style super charger. Furthermore, they are located in different places on the engine.

Turbo Charger

Turbo Charger

Supercharger

Supercharger

Difference Between Source of Power

To create forced induction, an accessory like a turbo charger or supercharger requires a power source.  The turbo charger relies on exhaust to power the turbine, which forces air into the engine.  A roots style supercharger will rely on an accessory belt, which spins the turbine and forces air into the engine.  This is why typically going with a turbo over a supercharger is more expensive, because the setup to pull exhaust and pipe back into the turbo is a more expensive installation and requires more parts.

Difference Between Turbo Horsepower

The additional horsepower that is created by a power added engine will also fluctuate depending on which accessory you choose.  A Turbo charger has the capability of providing higher power gains, but only at higher RPMs.  That’s because it relies on exhaust to spool up it’s turbine, which requires more time, thus power on the lower RPMs are not as high as a supercharger can provide.  Also, even at higher RPMs a Turbo Charger will provide spikes in power, where a supercharger will provide a more even distribution of power over the entire RPM band.

The drop in power at lower RPM’s is frequently called Turbo Lag.  This is the name given to the time it takes to bring a turbo up to speed and actually start producing horsepower gains above a normally aspirated engine.  This is most noticable changing from idle to throttle response time.

Warning About Power Adders

Even though a turbo charger or supercharger can be more expensive, they provide the greatest horsepower per dollar spent.  But, just because you can buy a Turbo or Supercharger does not mean you should, because most engines require a lot of prep work before being able to utilize any power adder.  A Turbo or Supercharger adds a lot of strain to an engine, so replacing internal parts of an engine is highly recommended to support the large increase and boost of horsepower.  Furthermore, even after a turbo or SC is installed it’s important to make sure your car is properly tuned before going WOT(wide open throttle).  If you don’t take the proper steps, installing a power adder may just blow your OEM engine apart.


This has been the first in a series of articles on explaining entry level questions to automotive enthusiasts.  There are plenty of other differences in turbos and other power adder sources, but this article just attempts to scratch the surface and explain the basic questions someone may have.

Next What’s The Difference Article: HID vs Halogen Lights

Author: Austin

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